Aaron Sorkin has quickly become something of an idol for me. He has the ability to find the compelling elements of a story and then entertain you using people talking in a room. There is no big action scenes, no grand acts of love or even particularly funny moments in his films, they just grab your attention and never let go.
The Social Network was a film I only watched last year, and it blew my mind which the sharpness of the writing and the pace of the script. With him turning his hand to Directing in 2017 with Molly’s game which I enjoyed a lot, my excitement was quite high for The Trial of the Chicago 7, a film he wrote and directed.
If you haven’t seen other Sorkin films, then on the face of it this film sounds like a standard courtroom drama. It takes place in 1969, over the course of the trial of people accused of inciting riots in Chicago in 1968. The story is told from the court room, with regular cuts back to the events the trial goes over. This mechanic slowly gives us more and more detail. Even though at first I felt a bit lost in the courtroom trying to follow who was who, by the end I was completely engrossed.
Sorkin’s script slowly sucks you into it, setting up the trial quickly at the start before everyone sits down to deliver performance after performance. The cast in this is just dripping with talent, and I am a little surprised there is only one Oscar nomination between them all. That nomination has gone to Sacha Baron Cohen, who is unrecognisable from the actor behind Borat as he plays one of the defendents. His comedic timing is perfect, delivering sarcastic comments and remarks peppered throughout the film to just provide some needed levity.
There isn’t any performance here that lets the film down. I loved Mark Rylance as the defending lawyer, even if his hair just bothered me endlessly throughout. His back and forth with the judge and the witnesses is so compelling. I also have to mention that this is the most I have ever enjoyed an Eddie Redmayne performance, as he plays another one of the the 7. Any of Redmayne, Rylance, Baron Cohen or the judge Frank Langella could be up for a nomination and it would be well deserved.
The reason they’re all so good though, and my mind keeps going back to it, is the incredible screenplay. The story is laid out, and the characters are talking almost non stop through the just over two hours this film runs for. The pace at which the dialogue hits is ferocious, but never hard to follow. As much as I love a good action sequence, the back and forth dialogue in this film is every bit as entertaining as seeing John Wick fight his way through a city.
This is the first of the Oscar Nominated films I have watched on my list, and it’s set an unbelievably high bar. A screenplay Oscar feels inevitable. The Best Picture might not be far behind, I reserve the right to change that after I have seen the other seven nominees of course, and what a treat it will be if this isn’t the best film of the year.
Good: Stellar performances bring to life an intriguing story told via a perfect screenplay.
Bad: I mean it is still a courtroom drama, and if that isn’t something you care for, I understand why it might not be for you. It’s worth a try though.
TL;DR : Aaron Sorkin doing Aaron Sorkin things with actors who clearly admire Aaron Sorkin.